The EU has granted €5 million to the new sustainable fishing project, which will develop tools and networks aimed at ensuring all stakeholders in seafood production obtain up to date information on how and where the climate is changing, what this will mean for fish stocks, and how to direct their practices.
The project, called ClimeFish, is funded by the EU’s Horizon2020 platform (a research and innovation fund) and will run until 2020.
Centred on an eight-point plan, ClimeFish will bring scientists and stakeholders in the seafood supply chain together to calculate best practice in any time or place given changes in the environment.
Members of the project include the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP).
Weathering the storm
ClimeFish say they will produce a ‘traffic light’ system warning fisheries and relevant stakeholders of significant climate changes and redirect their practices accordingly, saving costs and avoiding depletion of already threatened stocks of fish.
Michaela Aschan, coordinator of the project and professor of fisheries biology at the University of Tromsø in Norway explained that the work will be based on previous case studies and will lay the groundwork for sustainable practice following the close of the programme in 2020.
“ClimeFish will prepare Europe when it comes to climate change and safeguard fisheries and aquaculture, the focus is on the most produced and most resilient species of fish - all those which would have the most severe economic consequences.
“This is developed processed where we create a forecast, talk to the stakeholders, then come up with best practices, and work out how this can be enacted.
“The framework will also include data sets, trial runs, mapping systems, and anything that could help different kinds of production systems.”
Courtney Hough, director of FEAP, told FoodNavigator:
“We are looking to establish what to do if climate change really affect fisheries and aquaculture. Our main job is to make sure that the work of clime fish gets through to the profession and the people we discuss aquaculture items with for example the EU the aquaculture advisory council etc. A lot of the networks and bodies that the scientists and researchers do not really have access to. Ours is really targeting the professionals in aquaculture and the European stakeholders with which we have a lot of contact.
"It is a four-year project and it has a hell of a lot to do. One of the key issues we are concerned about is that with rising temperatures are the conditions catching the fish going to become more difficult – shellfish production – alongside climate change, you have the acidification of the oceans, and they are becoming more acid than neutral. One problem, for example, is whether shell fish will be able to fix calcium in these conditions and thus whether they can produce shells strong enough to survive.
Hough added that this was speculative but there was increasing evidence to show these things were already happening.
He said it was about getting the info to farmers themselves to know that if there are solutions available what they can do, and that part of the issue is avoiding scare mongering but saying that people are working on issues that there are.
ClimeFish is working exclusively on adaptation to changing weather conditions, rather than mitigating the circumstances that arise from seafood production.
A study early this year found that fisheries adopting sustainable practices and avoiding overfishing in depleted areas had far greater carbon emissions than those catching on mass, with little regard for fish stocks.
Aschan said that work on mitigation is running alongside ClimeFish though will not be a part of the project itself.